LEHI -- With train traffic about to dramatically spike, Lehi is heading up a delegation of cities working to make trains quieter.
Lehi is the sponsoring city for an application to the Federal Railroad Administration, on behalf of all cities along the commuter rail line, to create a so-called quiet zone.
Usually, trains are required to sound a warning -- long, loud and shrill -- at every intersection they approach. For residents living nearby, enduring the blasts a few times a day can be pesky. But 60 trains a day, crossing intersections at up to 79 mph, quickly becomes unbearable.
That's the number of daily trains possible when the Provo to Salt Lake line of commuter rail opens this fall, said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. A handful of daily trains are already testing the line -- blasting a horn at every intersection as they go.
To make the noise go away, cities have quietly been upgrading safety features at crossings, as required by the federal application process. The quiet zone, expected to be approved late this year, will apply to all trains, whether Amtrak, Union Pacific or commuter. The quiet zone will include rail lines in Lehi, Salt Lake, South Salt Lake, Murray, Sandy, South Jordan, Draper, Bluffdale, American Fork, Vineyard, Orem and Provo.
"To change to a quiet zone, there needs to be sufficient safety improvements to all railroad crossings," Carpenter said.
That means installing gates at crossings, along with flashing lights and ringing bells.
"They also have raised cement medians which prevent cars from traveling around gate arms," he said. "The horns are very loud and high decibel and can be heard for miles, while the bell at the gate is directional and creates much less noise pollution." All told, "we believe it will be safer than previously."
The quiet zone will not prevent train operators from sounding the horn if they see an obstruction or see someone walking on tracks.
"The horn is always available as a safety measure, but the requirement to use it goes away," Carpenter said.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration website, there are currently five quiet zones in Utah -- in Salt Lake, West Jordan, Midvale, Pleasant View and Woods Cross.
Caleb Warnock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.